I’m seeing red — in hooks, and the bass just love ’em

One particular peg on the wall of the hook display at the tackle store caught my eye the other day, and I made one of those spontaneous purchases that anglers are so prone to make.

The impulse buy was more, however, than another I-gotta-add-this-to-my-box decisions. My purchase was red hooks — trebles, to be specific – and I gained confidence last year that they may very well add a fish or two on tough days.

Theory holds that fish, particular sight feeders like largemouth and smallmouth bass, are attracted to the red trebles swinging off the split rings of crankbaits. The thinking is that the bass decipher the red as wisps of blood from a wounded baitfish. From there, you get the picture, as opportunistic predators never miss a crack at vulnerable prey.

Sometime give or take a hundred thousand years ago, an ancestor to today’s anglers discovered that he could tease a fish into spear range with a wounded bait. And so began fishers’ fascination with how to spiff up their offerings.

Over the years, anglers have experimented with all sorts of embellishments to make their bogus lures appear to be bleeding. Red yarn dresses flies and jigs. Crimson paint splashes the sides of hard-body lures. Scarlet strands streak the skirts of spinnerbaits.

In the past three or four years, more and more crankbait manufacturers are offering their lures with red trebles, even though the fishing world continues to debate whether the red is more for the anglers than for the fish.

My input to that debate is this: Who cares?

I’ve been adding red trebles to my crankbaits, especially the shallow-runners, and I’m catching more fish with them. So whether that is mere coincidence or a function of the fact that predators seek and capitalize on blood really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I’ve put more bass in my boat on shallow-running crankbaits with their standard bronze or black hooks swapped for red ones. I don’t bother with changing the back hook, because if this blood theory works, I’d much prefer that my bass zero in on the belly hook, thus increasing the chances of a good hook-up and a successful landing.

Those with knowledge about the color spectrum and how it is affected by light say that red quickly turns to gray under water. The transition point from red to gray depends on the clarity of the water and the angle of the sunlight.

Again, however, in a sport where confidence is key, I’m sticking with my red-hook swap-outs even if the red turns to crystal clear. It may be a simple function of the fact I cast better when I believe that bait is irresistible to the fish in the area where it lands. But the fact is red does work for me.

The most interesting result is that I’ve seen a definite increase in the number of well-hooked bass that I catch on shallow cranks. They seem to be going after that belly hook. My guess is that for every 10 bass I caught last year on red-hooked plugs, eight of them were on the belly hook.

Crankbait anglers fear losing fish that just nip that back hook trailing off the lure, and if a red hook boosts the odds in their favor, then who can blame them for seeing red as a helpful tweak?

If you haven’t experimented with red hooks, consider it now as you prepare your tackle box for the upcoming season. They work for me, and the way I see it, what have you got to lose other than a tattered thumbnail from the split rings on all those cranks.


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